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October 1, 2018 | by  | in TV | [ssba]

Kims Convenience

Kim’s Convenience is a clever Canadian sitcom following the lives of a Korean Canadian family running their convenience store. The Kim family’s interactions with its diverse neighbourhood of customers is interwoven with family centric plotlines, where Umma and Appa try their best as immigrants to raise their children to have a better life than their own. It’s a hilarious and often heartfelt show. The convenience store setting is a perfect backdrop for this multicultural story.
In a world of Asian side characters as nerds, lotus blossoms, kung fu masters, and dragon ladies, this show provides necessary relief for diasporic Asian audiences. It feels real, in a way that I have personally never seen on screen before. It is truly what we want when we ask for representation. Conceived by Korean Canadian author, Ins Choi, the plotlines and cultural nuances feel authentic and relatable rather than tokenistic or stereotyped. Umma’s insistence on feeding her children despite Jung not living at home, and her interference in Janet’s love life to find her a “cool Korean Christian boy”, coupled with Appa’s utter stubbornness to ever admit he actually cares, are undeniably relatable situations for many Asian and immigrant kids.
The show is aware of itself and the society we live in. It acknowledges serious issues like racial profiling, privilege, and stereotyping in such an easily digestible way for a wider audience by poking fun at these issues, thus undermining their presence. There is a scene where two young Muslim girls enter the store in hijabs and another customer asks Appa how he can tell them apart. He prides himself in his ability: “it’s not hard, just have to care for customer”. The girls approach the other customer and admit “he gets it wrong 50% of the time, but he tries”. The show is filled with these wholesome and good natured interactions.
For Asian diaspora living in Western countries, this show truly hits close to home. Plotlines about the reality of strict or overprotective parents are developed and even subverted throughout the series. As Asian kids, we eventually grow old enough to understand why our parents restricted us: they simply wanted what was best for us, and this understanding is apparent in Kim’s Convenience (no offence Lane Kim from Gilmore Girls).
The character of Jung, who is estranged from his father due to going to juvie as a teen, and his struggle with the resentment he feels towards his parents, coupled with his efforts to shake his estrangement, is a unique and poignant choice. Jung’s character helps us second generation migrants understand our parents’ loving but frustrating reasons for restricting us socially in order for us to do better in schooling and have the kind of success that they couldn’t have.
Beyond its importance in our current media landscape due to the utter dearth of Asian characters on screen, Kim’s Convenience nails the family sitcom in a way that our generation has never seen before. The whole cast shines with their comedic timing and authentic interactions, while representing an often unseen family unit that is universally relatable in its strengths and struggles, even here in New Zealand.
This is a show wholly deserving of recognition. There is a feeling that Hollywood and mainstream media are ever so slowly beginning to change in their issues with representation of minorities, and Kim’s Convenience is pushing us forward. In an industry which has historically rewarded white people for portraying Asians over actual Asian actors, it is crucial that we recognise and celebrate a show like Kim’s Convenience, and strive to present more Asian stories on screen.
Now streaming on Netflix with a third season on its way.


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